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Sand Whiting (2018)

Sillago ciliata

  • Jason McGilvray (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Karina Hall (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)

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Summary

Sand Whiting is a sustainable species along the east coast of Australia. It is most abundant in southern QLD and northern NSW.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
New South Wales New South Wales EGF, OHF Sustainable Catch, effort and CPUE, length and age, mortality rate
EGF
Estuary General Fishery (NSW)
OHF
Ocean Hauling Fishery (NSW)
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Stock Structure

Sand Whiting occur along the east coast of Australia and are most abundant in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. Tagging studies have shown movement of adult fish between estuaries, but information on biological stock boundaries remains incomplete. The unknown nature of biological stock composition means no formal assessment of the entire biological stock has been completed. Separate assessments of Sand Whiting have been conducted in Queensland and New South Wales [Gray et al. 2000, Hoyle et al. 2000, Ochwada-Doyle et al. 2014, O’Neill 2000].

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the jurisdictional level—Queensland and New South Wales.

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Stock Status

New South Wales

In New South Wales, Sand Whiting are mainly taken by the commercial Estuary General Fishery (by the mesh netting and hauling sectors), with smaller catches reported by the Ocean Hauling Fishery [Hall 2015]. Annual commercial catches of Sand Whiting in NSW waters over the last five years have been well below the preceding 20 year average of 162 t [NSW DPI unpublished]. In 2017, the total commercial catch of Sand Whiting was just 62.5 t, which was the smallest annual catch reported from NSW waters since 1960. This recent decrease in catches has coincided with a similar decline in effort, such that the median commercial catch rates (nominal) for both mesh netting and hauling, while variable, have not decreased noticeably over the last eight years [NSW DPI unpublished]. Estimates of recreational harvest also decreased from 230–460 t in 2000–01 to just 69 t in 2013–14, and while there was a concurrent drop in effort, the combined whiting catch rate decreased by 50 per cent between the two surveys [West et al. 2016]. There is, however, uncertainty in the 2000–01 recreational estimates as Sand Whiting catches were estimated from mixed whiting totals (probably comprising Sand Whiting, Trumpeter Whiting and other whiting species). The length compositions of the commercial landings for this species have been relatively stable since the late-1960s (although the time-series has many missing years) [Hall 2015]. Local populations that have been studied are predominantly comprised of fish that are between two and five years of age [Ochwada-Doyle et al. 2014]. Despite the conflicting signals from the recreational sector that will be further monitored, the above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired.

Nominal effort levels (in total number of days fished) over the past eight years have been well below historical levels. In 2017, effort levels dropped again in both sectors from 9 454 to 6483 days for mesh netting and from 1 364 to 1 037 days for hauling [NSW DPI unpublished]. The minimum legal length for both commercial and recreational fishers (270 mm TL), and spatial closures in New South Wales reduce fishing pressure on the spawning stock. Previous estimates of mortality from catch curves indicate that the rate of fishing mortality is likely to be less than that of natural mortality [Ochwada-Doyle et al. 2014]. The above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Sand Whiting in New South Wales is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Biology

Sand Whiting biology [Burchmore et al. 1988, McKay RJ 1992, Ochwada-Doyle 2014, Stocks et al. 2011]

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Sand Whiting 12 years, 510 mm TL Males 170–240 mm FL Females 19–240 mm FL
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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Sand Whiting
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Tables

Fishing methods
New South Wales
Commercial
Mesh Net
Haul Seine
Charter
Hook and Line
Indigenous
Hook and Line
Recreational
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method New South Wales
Charter
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
In possession limits
Size limit
Spatial closures
Commercial
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Indigenous
Bag limits
Native Title
Section 37 (1d)(3)(9), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority
Recreational
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
In possession limits
Size limit
Spatial closures
Active vessels
New South Wales
207 in EGF, 22 in OHF
EGF
Estuary General Fishery (NSW)
OHF
Ocean Hauling Fishery (NSW)
Catch
New South Wales
Commercial 56.40t in EGF, 5.95t in OHF
Charter 389 fish (2017)
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 69 t (2013–14)
EGF
Estuary General Fishery (NSW)
OHF
Ocean Hauling Fishery (NSW)

Queensland – Indigenous In Queensland, under the Fisheries Act 1994 (Qld), Indigenous fishers are able to use prescribed traditional and non-commercial fishing apparatus in waters open to fishing. Size and bag limits and seasonal closures do not apply to Indigenous fishers. Further exemptions to fishery regulations can be obtained through permits.

New South Wales – Indigenous (management methods) (a) Bag limits - the Aboriginal Cultural Fishing Interim Access Arrangement allows an Indigenous fisher in New South Wales to take in excess of a recreational bag limit in certain circumstances—for example, if they are doing so to provide fish to other community members who cannot harvest themselves; (b) Aboriginal cultural fishing authority- the authority that Indigenous persons can apply to take catches outside the recreational limits under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW), Section 37 (1d)(3)(9), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority, and (c) Native title- in cases where the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) applies fishing activity can be undertaken by the person holding native title in line with S.211 of that Act, which provides for fishing activities for the purpose of satisfying their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs. In managing the resource where native title has been formally recognised, the native title holders are engaged with to ensure their native title rights are respected and inform management of the State's fisheries resources. 

New South Wales – Charter (catch) Considerable under-reporting of catch by this sector is likely [NSW DPI unpublished].

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Sand Whiting - note confidential catch not shown
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References

  1. Burchmore, JJ 1988, Biology of four species of Whiting (Pices: Sillaginidae) in Botany Bay, New South Wales, Marine and Freshwater Research, 39: 709–27.
  2. Butcher, PA, Broadhurst, MK and Brand, CP 2006, Mortality of sand whiting (Sillago ciliata) released by recreational anglers in an Australian estuary, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 63: 567–571.
  3. Gray, CA, Pease, BC, Stringfellow, SL, Raines, LP, Rankin, BK and Walford, TR 2000, Sampling estuarine fish species for stock assessment, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 94/042, New South Wales Fisheries Research Institute, Cronulla.
  4. Hall, KC 2015, Sand Whiting (Sillago ciliata), In: J Stewart, A Hegarty, C Young, AM Fowler and J Craig (eds), Status of fisheries resources in NSW 2013–14, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Mosman, 263–267.
  5. Halliday, IA, Ley, JA, Tobin, A, Garrett, R, Gribble, NA and Mayer, DG 2001, The effects of net fishing: addressing biodiversity and bycatch issues in Queensland inshore waters, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 97/206, Department of Primary Industries, Queensland.
  6. Hoyle, S, Brown, I, Dichmont, C, Sellin, M, Cosgrove, M and McLennan, M 2000, Integrated fish stock assessment and monitoring program, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 94/161, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.
  7. McKay, RJ 1992, Sillaginid fishes of the world, vol. 14, FAO synopsis no. 125, Food and Agriculture Organisation.
  8. Moreton Bay Seafood Industry Association 2012, Moreton Bay tunnel net fishery code of best practice.
  9. NSW DPI unpublished, Status of Australian Fish Stocks 2018 – NSW Stock status summary – Sand Whiting (Sillago ciliata), NSW Department of Primary Industries, Coffs Harbour. 
  10. O’Neill, MF 2000, Fishery assessment of the Burnett River, Maroochy River and Pumistone Passage, Project Report QO99012, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.
  11. Ochwada-Doyle, FA, Stocks, J, Barnes, L and Gray, CA 2014, Reproduction, growth and mortality of the exploited sillaginid, Sillago ciliata Cuvier, 1829, Journal of Applied Ichthyology, 30: 870–880, doi: 10.1111/jai.21478.
  12. Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries 2018, Queensland Stock Status Assessment Workshop Proceedings 2018. Species Summaries. 19–20 June 2018, Brisbane.
  13. Stocks, J, Stewart, J and Gray, CA 2011, Using otolith increment widths to infer spatial, temporal and gender variation in the growth of sand whiting Sillago ciliata, Fisheries Management and Ecology, 18: 121–131.
  14. Then, AY, Hoenig, NJ, Hall, NG, Hewitt, DA 2014, Evaluating the predictive performance of empirical estimators of natural mortality rate using information on over 200 fish species. ICES Journal of Marine Science.
  15. Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira, D, Lawson, A and Quinn, R 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey 2013–14, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland.
  16. West, L.D, Stark, KE, Murphy, JJ, Lyle JM and Ochwada-Doyle, FA 2016, Survey of recreational fishing in New South Wales and the ACT, 2013/14, Fisheries Final Report Series No. 150.